Background: Schistosoma mansoni is the major causative agent of schistosomiasis. The parasite takes advantage of host signals to complete its development in the human body. Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) is a human cytokine involved in skin inflammatory responses, and although its effect on the adult parasite's metabolism and egg-laying process has been previously described, a comprehensive assessment of the TNF-alpha pathway and its downstream molecular effects is lacking.
Methodology/principal findings: In the present work we describe a possible TNF-alpha receptor (TNFR) homolog gene in S. mansoni (SmTNFR). SmTNFR encodes a complete receptor sequence composed of 599 amino acids, and contains four cysteine-rich domains as described for TNFR members. Real-time RT-PCR experiments revealed that SmTNFR highest expression level is in cercariae, 3.5 (+/-0.7) times higher than in adult worms. Downstream members of the known human TNF-alpha pathway were identified by an in silico analysis, revealing a possible TNF-alpha signaling pathway in the parasite. In order to simulate parasite's exposure to human cytokine during penetration of the skin, schistosomula were exposed to human TNF-alpha just 3 h after cercariae-to-schistosomula in vitro transformation, and large-scale gene expression measurements were performed with microarrays. A total of 548 genes with significantly altered expression were detected, when compared to control parasites. In addition, treatment of adult worms with TNF-alpha caused a significantly altered expression of 1857 genes. Interestingly, the set of genes altered in adults is different from that of schistosomula, with 58 genes in common, representing 3% of altered genes in adults and 11% in 3 h-old early schistosomula.
Conclusions/significance: We describe the possible molecular elements and targets involved in human TNF-alpha effect on S. mansoni, highlighting the mechanism by which recently transformed schistosomula may sense and respond to this host mediator at the site of cercarial penetration into the skin.